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By BOredAtWork in MLP
Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 07:31:25 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)

CNN has an article on "hactivists," which is to say the least, interesting. It describes in a fair amount of depth how hackers are natural political activists, but I'm not sure what kind of light it ends up showing hackers in.

One of the more choice quotes, describing their example hactivist "There are thousands of people like him, who by day are system and network administrators, security analysts and start-up co-founders. When night comes, they transform into vampire wanna-bes, hedonists, Goths, cross-dressers and sadomasochists. "

I'm not really sure what to think about this. On one hand, I do agree that hackers are much more politically inclined than the average Joe - just take a look at the K5 submission bin. On the other hand, I'm not sure if it's "being a hacker" that makes one politically active, or "having above average intelligence and curiosity" that makes one a hacker AND politically active...

As for their sample hactivist, that just bothers the hell out of me. If the media wants to profile a group, such as politically active hackers, why on earth do they have to pick the ones who are extreme, and on the outskirts of the group? I'm politically active, and very vocal about it. I'm a hacker, and vocal about that too. But I'm sure as hell not a vampire wanna-be, cross dresser, hedonist, Goth, or sadomasochist. The vast majority of hackers I know aren't either. What on earth does CNN seek to gain by wrecking the credibility of politically active hackers by painting them up as circus freaks?


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I try to disassociate myself from the "computer freak" image
o Yes 26%
o No 39%
o I long for the day when my freak side will be acceptable 15%
o This leather underware and morgue makeup is freaky??? 18%

Votes: 132
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o hactivists
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Hactivists...? | 22 comments (13 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
/me hangs head in shame (3.00 / 1) (#3)
by BOredAtWork on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 03:13:09 PM EST

Sometimes I do the stupidest things. Like hit "preview" 3 times, and not notice that this link was missing...

Scoop suggestion: Let me fix my stupidity while a writeup is still in the submission bin... I'm hoping that it's already in place, and that my k5 newbie ass just has yet to find it...

Re: /me hangs head in shame (none / 0) (#17)
by hurstdog on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 06:50:02 PM EST

its not a feature yet, but it will be in one of the next releases. scoop right now is in a feature freeze so that will get added after we finish bugfixing etc. and release scoop-0.6 For now though you have to deal with previewing and getting it right the first time ;)

[ Parent ]
Why single out IT/S types? (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by Alarmist on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 03:14:20 PM EST

Because they're the ones that everybody's paying attention to right now.

CNN's quote could just as easily (and just as truly) have said, "There are thousands of people like him, who by day are stock brokers and car salesmen, waiters and construction workers. When night comes, they transform into vampire wanna-bes, hedonists, Goths, cross-dressers and sadomasochists." But it wouldn't have the same impact because those are all accepted professions and nobody really pays much attention to them.

As for the alienation slant, that's an interesting problem. On the one hand, I'm inclined to think they took that angle because they want to set these people apart as being different (and, subtly or not, perhaps bad/wrong/evil/whatever as well). They want to destroy the image of IT/S professionals as people who are money magnets (and, in US society, can therefore do no wrong).

On the other hand, maybe there's a higher percentage of such behaviors in those who are likely to go into IT and IS, or there was before everybody and his brother Ned started getting in on it. I did find it interesting that they focused on the "darker" elements--they didn't talk about the IT/S people who are volunteer charity workers, or gaming fanatics, or hot-rodders. They went after sex, because sex in the US sells. A lot.

Gag. I used to think that CNN might be somewhat credible. Evidently it's time to reassess my opinion.

Fight the Power.

It's simple, really... (none / 0) (#11)
by analog on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 04:58:10 PM EST

they didn't talk about the IT/S people who are volunteer charity workers, or gaming fanatics, or hot-rodders

Course not; those things aren't very sensational, and if there is any broad generalization you can make about the media today, it's that sensationalism rules!

Moving from the revival of yellow journalism into the real world, I have noticed a distinct trend among the technically inclined that most people outside those areas seem to be amazed by. I've been in technical fields of one sort or another (mostly non-computer related hardware up until a few years ago) for fifteen years, and I am constantly running into people who are musicians. Far more often than among 'the general populace'. Another interesting thing is that the better they are at their field, the more likely they are to be musicians.

I am a musician myself so I tend to be on the lookout for others, and I can say with some confidence that if you put me in a room with 20 really good technicians/engineers, I'll put a band together in less than five minutes. I can't say that about any other career field whose members I've been exposed to in large numbers. I can't honestly say I've been around enough programmer types to know if this holds true there, but I'd be interested to hear others' comments on that.

People who are really up on their music theory shouldn't be surprised by this, but I frequently hear about how strange it is to be both musically and technically inclined (I wonder how many people know that Mozart was almost fanatic in his love of math?). I suppose it wouldn't help CNN sell advertising if they published a story that intimated that these people that noone understands are both smarter and more talented than their readers...

[ Parent ]

Yellow journalism. (none / 0) (#21)
by Alarmist on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 10:13:44 AM EST

Course not; those things aren't very sensational, and if there is any broad generalization you can make about the media today, it's that sensationalism rules!

Sensationalism in the media has always ruled, and probably always will, unless everyone becomes a perfectly rational creature that cannot be swayed by appeals to emotion (yeah, right).

I suppose it wouldn't help CNN sell advertising if they published a story that intimated that these people that noone understands are both smarter and more talented than their readers...

No, and it might touch off some other nasty things. "Hey, these people that earn more than you are smarter are more artistic than you are!" could be a crushing blow to the average person, who has some idea that his kids won't be much smarter than he is and that they're doomed to be less-than-financially-successful because he's just not smart enough. Throw some booze and resentment into the mix, and you'll have yourself a good old-fashioned pitchfork-and-torches mob in no time.

What gets me is that CNN is making it easier to demonize the techies because CNN is painting them as immoral freaks.

Fight the Power.

[ Parent ]

The CNN Article is Flawed (3.00 / 1) (#9)
by zartan on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 03:47:17 PM EST

Gee, what a surprise! Although it isn't as negative as I would have expected from the intro.

I really wish they hadn't used this quote:

"It's all about greed," Yetzer says, tapping his claw-handled cane on the wooden floor at Click + Drag. "But we have a fundamental right to watch our movies whatever way we want and share our music with who we want."
It confuses DeCSS with Napster when those issues are entirely different.

In case you missed it in the comments, the link is http://www.cnn.com/2000/TECH/computing/10/18/hactivism.idg/index.html

CNN? (3.50 / 2) (#10)
by Red Moose on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 04:42:58 PM EST

My problem with the CNN article was also the "sample" hactivist/hacker (they very much blurred the distinction). I don't particularly like the link they made between people who like to tinker with computers and real world groups, which in all fairness, have done far more damage in the name of freedom, and justice for all (just for the Metallica fans) than "hackers" have done.

I was disappointed to feel that it was just another Matrixy-style "Welcome to the real world" type article - the gothic description of a bunch of obvious social externals being typified as the core of the attitude of the true hacker, who, if we believe the article, has essential ingredients for involvement in social issues beyond the technology front. I'm sure the non-tech community is shuddering in their seats at the thought of this. It's almost a feel-good article for the uninitiated, and a relive-your-youth type thing for those people who relish for days of yore, which we are also led to believe in the article were the foundation times of The Great Eighties.

What is very much my opinion, however, is that the author is clearly attempting to draw way too many analogies between different social circumstances, which may appear similar to those who wish to pretend to adopt an all-seeing-eye, as if to be looking down on all of us poor humans from above.

It's a shit-stirrer article, I think. And that's the bottom line, because it asks no questions, gives no answers, provides no insight other than the wandering dreams of possibly fictitious characters that reveal possibly at little jealousy on behalf of the author. American Beauty, anyone?

They're not connected (2.00 / 1) (#14)
by djkimmel on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 05:23:29 PM EST

Being an hacker and being a political activist are two completely different things.

Someone can be a political activist without being a hacker, this is probably pretty common. Someone can also be a hacker without being a political activist, and I'd suspect that this is very common too.

I fall into the latter category. I am a hacker with absolutely no political inclinations. I take the time to learn enough about the candidates to make an educated decision as to where my vote should go, but that's it. In fact, none of my hacker friends care all that much about politics.

-- Dave

-- Dave
Large scale hacks ARE politics (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by BOredAtWork on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 06:29:45 PM EST

I am a hacker with absolutely no political inclinations.

There's a world of difference between having political inclinations and being active in local/state/fed government. If you've ever been on the kernel mailing lists, involved with the kde or gnome project, or (king of all the politically active hacks out there) the debian-devel mailing list - and taken an active roll, that's political inclinations. If you lead people, or try to understand the motivations of those leading you, that's political. And in this context, I've yet to meet a hacker who isn't political. Sure, there's plenty of sheep out there, but as far as I've seen, none of them are decent hackers.

My question still remains... do sheep start hacking, and then become political in the process of hacking, or do sheep just not start hacking to begin with...?

[ Parent ]

Ah ha (none / 0) (#22)
by djkimmel on Thu Oct 19, 2000 at 11:28:09 AM EST

Now this changes things - I should have been a little clearer in my other post.

I should say I have no political inclinations as far as government politics goes. I always considered "politics" to only apply to the government sense of the word, with the occasional mention of "office politcs" when talking about work. I never considered that politics could apply to something like a mailing list.

In light of your explaination, I do have political inclinations, I just didn't think of them as such.

I am active in a few mailing lists, although not very active. I help people out on informix-mv when I can and ask for help when I'm stumped. That list has also gotten into heated discussions about various techniques of doing things, I usually just watch those from the sidelines.

Right now there is a heated discussion (not yet a flame war) about ways to parse XML in UniVerse/UniData. A few weeks ago, someone's .sig set off a discussion of US politics (the government kind). Neither one interests me at the moment since I have no need to import XML into UniVerse nor am I a US resident.

Thank you for the clairification!
-- Dave

-- Dave
[ Parent ]
'Fringe' ... (4.50 / 2) (#18)
by Parity on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 07:19:17 PM EST

One thing to understand, is that, I know hackers who are political activists, political activists who are goths, goths who are hedonists, hedonists who are involved in S&M, S&M practictitioners who are fascinated by vampires, vampire-enthusiasts who are cross-dressers, ...

Generally speaking, people who are part of one fringe group are more like to be part of others, because -all- fringe groups have in common the ability to be free-thinking enough to choose non-mainstream behaviour you feel is right, rather than conforming to feel 'comfortable' within society.

Nonetheless, I don't think I've ever known anyone that fit into -all- those categories, nor do I think that many, if any, people that the reporter saw did... but it sounds more colorful to list all those attributes together rather than to say, 'A bunch of people there to listen to dance to goth music, some of whom dressed in the goth style, others of whom cross dressed, and others of whom were dressed in comfortable clubbing clothes... ' and the gods forbid that it be mentioned that many hackers don't go out to any kind of nightclubs, fringe or otherwise...

I'm starting to run on here, but I wanted to point out that while the author -was- being sensationalist it is -also- true that there is some correlation between 'fringe' groups and 'hackers' ... because, like it or not, hackers, political-activists, and others, -are- fringe groups; also, when mixing political-activism into the groups someone is a member of, the number of fringe-groups associated with quickly grows... because nearly -every- fringe group is concerned with defending its right to exist, from neo-nazis to cypherpunks to homosexuals to supporters of 3rd party candidates to people who like to reverse engineer tech ... freedom of speech and right to privacy tend to be issues common to every fringe group, with the possible exception of the 'religious right' who simply have yet to be the victims of any serious persecution of their rights.

And, FWIW, I'm not particularly impressed with their sample 'hactivist' either, but then... have you ever seen a side by side comparison of raw and edited interview material? I'm not going to judge him on this snippet of a column!

Parity Mark

Squelch (1.00 / 1) (#19)
by _cbj on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 08:11:09 PM EST

<gayness type=uber shame=80%>

Heh, I only mention this because it was a K5 poll, 'K, but BOredAtWork was my favourite Slashdot regular.


[Hey, where did editorial comments go?]

Ah. (none / 0) (#20)
by _cbj on Wed Oct 18, 2000 at 08:13:11 PM EST

It was already posted. Sleepy time for me, I think.

[ Parent ]
Hactivists...? | 22 comments (13 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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